Contribution of copper ion resistance to survival of Escherichia coli on metallic copper surfaces

Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Feb;74(4):977-86. doi: 10.1128/AEM.01938-07. Epub 2007 Dec 21.


Bacterial contamination of touch surfaces poses a serious threat for public health. The use of bactericidal surface materials, such as copper and its alloys, might constitute a way to aid the use of antibiotics and disinfectants, thus minimizing the risk of emergence and spread of multiresistant germs. The survival of Escherichia coli on metallic copper surfaces has been studied previously; however, the mechanisms underlying bacterial inactivation on copper surfaces have not been elucidated. Data presented in this study suggest that bacteria are killed rapidly on dry copper surfaces. Several factors, such as copper ion toxicity, copper chelators, cold, osmotic stress, and reactive oxygen species, but not anaerobiosis, influenced killing rates. Strains deleted in copper detoxification systems were slightly more sensitive than was the wild type. Preadaptation to copper enhanced survival rates upon copper surface exposure. This study constitutes a first step toward understanding the reasons for metallic copper surface-mediated killing of bacteria.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cations / toxicity
  • Copper / chemistry
  • Copper / toxicity*
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Escherichia coli / genetics
  • Escherichia coli / growth & development*
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Survival Analysis


  • Cations
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Copper